The Baptism of the Lord C-2013: Our Humanity Made Holy
This week we end the Christmas Season with the second Epiphany of the Lord, His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The Baptism of the Lord is an epiphany because it is a demonstration to the world that this Jesus is the Son of the God. Some spiritual writers say that whereas the water John used made others holy, Jesus made the water holy. In a similar way some spiritual writers add that through the holiness of his humanity, our humanity was also made holy.
The second epiphany occurred while John the Baptist was baptizing people with his baptism of repentance. John’s baptism flowed from his preaching. He told people that
longed for a new world, that the new world was at hand. He challenged them to begin to change this world by changing their own lives. He called them to make a symbolic sign of this change by being baptized. This would be very similar to an evangelist calling people to change their lives and stand up for the Lord.
Jesus hears John’s preaching and is very much aware
of the world’s longing for change. He allows John to baptize Him, even against John’s objections, because he also longs for a change in the world. He is one with all seeking the Kingdom of God.
It is at this point that the Epiphany occurs. The Lord is shown to the world to be the Son of God. The voice from heaven echoes the first reading from Isaiah, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descends upon the Lord in the form of a dove. The world witnesses the beginning of Jesus’ public life.
“This is my Beloved Son.” The importance of this epiphany lies in the words of the Father. Jesus and Jesus alone is our teacher. In a world full of gurus, dynamic preachers, and people of every opinion imaginable each with thousands and thousands of followers, we need to look to only one place, to only one person for guidance. We only need to look to Jesus Christ. Our way to God the Father is through the person of Jesus Christ. We take these steps by responding to his call for us to take up our crosses and follow him. Any theory or practice that diminishes the need for Jesus in our lives or relegates his presence to a secondary role cannot be our way to the Father.
A wonderful spiritual writer and mystic of our time, Annie Dillard, describes the Baptism of Christ in her book, Holy the Firm. In her description she is walking on an island in the Puget Sound, Washington, when she sees two men by the water. Picture yourself standing on the shore with Annie as I read this part of her book:
“Christ is being baptized. The one who is Christ is there, and the one who is John....The two men are bare to the waist. The one walks him into the water and holds him under. His hand is on his neck. Christ is coiled and white under the water, standing on stones. He lifts from the water. Water beads on his shoulders. I see the water in balls heavy as planets, a billion beads of water as weighty as worlds, and He lifts them up on his back as he rises. He stands wet in the water. Each one bead is transparent, and each has a world or the same world, light and alive and apparent inside the drop: it is all there ever could be, moving at once, past and future, and all the people. I can look into any sphere and see people stream past me, and cool my eyes with colors, and the sight of the world in spectacle perishing ever and ever renewed. I do; I deepen into a drop and see all that time contains, all the faces and deeps of the worlds, and all earth’s contents, every landscape and room, everything living or made or fashioned, all past and future stars, and especially faces, faces like the cells of everything, faces pouring past me, talking, and going and gone. And I am gone. (Dillard, Holy and Firm pp 66-68.)
Humanity is being given dignity, the dignity of the One whose humanity received the Holy Spirit at His Baptism. Jesus is being baptized for all of God’s creation, for us. He carries on His Body each of us in the mystic oneness of time and place. We are there, each of us, in one of the billions of beads of water on His Body. His love for us is beyond our understanding. His love for us is infinitely greater than our concepts of wonderful. He is carrying us on His Body from His Baptism to His Cross. During that time He teaches us. He teaches us the Way of Love, the Way of the Kingdom, the Way of the Father.
His voice is the one we need to hear.